Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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A Year of Mindfulness-One Bite at a Time

How did you do last week observing and becoming mindful of the empty space around objects? Even though I’m artist I found this practice to be rather challenging. My week was busy and I didn’t slow down very often. So this afternoon when I took my walk, I observed the space around the trees and tree branches. The sky did seem more vibrant and the blue more intense. In fact, I think this may qualify as practicing three of our mindfulness tasks-seeing blue, observing trees, and observing empty space.

This Week’s Practice: One Bite at a Time

This week’s practice, to take one bite at a time, reminds me of being told as a child to “chew each bite of your food 37 times” (or whatever that number was-30 something.) Being told that as kids we were lead to believe that chewing a bite of food for 30 some odd times would improve our digestion. All it really did was destroy the taste of the food and make me impatient.

Taking one bite at a time, however, is more practical. In this practice we are asked to take a bite of food or a sip of liquid and then to put down our utensil or cup. Why? Well, how many of you practice eating by the shovelful? You know, take a bite, chew a little, take another bite before finishing the first bite and so on and so forth. Our go-go-go time pressured society doesn’t always encourage us to enjoy our food.

But isn’t that the point of having a nice meal? To eat slowly. To savor. When we eat slowly, we feel full sooner. When we feel full sooner, the better we become about the amount of food we eat.

The other aspect of this practice is becoming aware of impatience. Eating quickly may be considered an example of impatience. If eating quickly is a frequent occurrence, in what other aspects of your life are you impatient? And if you’re impatient in many areas of your life, do you need to ask yourself why you’re in such a rush to get through life?

When the mind is absent, thinking about the past or the future, we only half-taste our food. When our awareness rests in our mouth, we are fully present as we eat.

Reflection: There can be no party in the mouth if the mind is not invited to attend. -Dr Jan Chozen Bays

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A Year of Mindfulness: The Three Breaths

Here we are midway through April. I write this on tax day and the upcoming mindfulness practice seems very appropriate for that annual ritual. But before we get to that, lets return to last week’s mindfulness practice: Secret Virtues. Were you able to grace anyone with a secret virtue, an anonymous act of kindness? Did you happen to receive any secret acts of kindness? How did you feel when you engaged in this act of kindness? I hope it left you feeling 10 feet tall and put a smile on your face.

This Week’s Mindfulness Practice: Three Breaths

A few weeks ago, we practiced a similar act when we were asked to pause and take three breaths before answering the phone. Not an easy thing for everyone to practice, especially if you’re in a customer service position or other job that requires an immediate response when the phone rings.

This week we are asked to pause, to take three breaths, any time during the day. The intention behind this practice is to quiet the noisy mind and to open up your senses and become aware your surroundings. I find this practice is very helpful when my mind is racing along a mile a minute. It makes me to return to the present moment.

Another great time to practice three breaths is when you’re stuck in traffic or waiting in a long line. (Hey, do see the connection between this practice and the earlier practice on waiting?) I also like to take three breaths before falling asleep. It seems to help prepare my body for a good nights rest.

During which situations would it be good for you to practice three breaths?

Reflection: Prescription for health: Quiet the mind for just three breaths. Repeat as needed. -Jan Chozen Bays


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A Year of Mindfulness: Become Aware of Your Posture

We are well into our second month of mindfulness, following along with Jan Chozen Bays’ book How to Train a Wild Elephant. To read more about mindfulness, please return to the first post in this series: A Year of Mindfulness: Use Your Non-Dominant Hand.

Last week, we practiced giving true, genuine compliments. This is a great practice for two reasons: it causes us to become aware of the positive things people do on a daily basis and breaks our habit of focusing on ourselves and it causes us to get out of a negative mindset. After all, isn’t it easier to complain than compliment?

And did you notice how the recipient of your compliment reacted? Possibly surprised and hopefully happy. By giving a compliment you probably made that person’s day.

This Week’s Practice: Become Aware of Your Posture

In this week’s practice, we are asked to be mindful of our posture. First, become aware of what posture you’re in and how it feels within your body. Then, as you notice your posture, adjust it.

Some good times to become mindful of your posture is at meals, when standing in line, while driving, or when in meetings or classes. Really pay attention to your posture from the front and the side. While your posture may look fine from the front, if you get a side view you may see slumping, rounded shoulders, hips jutting forward, booty sticking out, belly sagging…well, you get the picture.

Becoming mindful of your posture is important because your posture projects your demeanor. Think about your first impression of someone when you see them slouching.

Posture and mood are also related. Become mindful of how you hold your body when sad, angry, or anxious. How does changing your posture affect your mood?

Reflection: There is so much to gain from improving your posture. Everybody’s interested in the way they look, and then they’re astounded to find the other benefits. -Janice Novak


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Monday Reflection: The Paradox of Our Age

We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgement;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness;

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet
our new neighbor.

We built more computers to hold more information
to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communication;
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.

These are times of fast foods
but slow digestion;
Tall man but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.

It’s a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.

-H.H. The XIV Dalai Lama


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I Don’t Have All The Answers

Life has an uncanny way of tossing challenges at us. Sometimes they show up once in a while. At other times they come at us one right after the other. The challenges I’ve faced in recent months felt like they came one after the other: health problems; a sick kitty, home damage during a long, hard winter, relocating my studio several times, surgery, preparing for repairs and painting, and then delayed repairs due to contractor schedules.

As they say “When it rains, it pours.”

Once the haze of frustration lifts and the pissing and moaning ends, I try to reflect on each challenge and understand why the particular situation happened. To be honest, I don’t always find an answer. I don’t know if there is supposed to be one.  Sometimes I don’t realize why things happened until well after the challenge has passed.

More often than not, the challenge arises from something beyond my control. And that lack of control over the situation makes it even harder.

One of the hardest things to do as a human is to give up control and to put the situation in another person’s hands, whether that be another human, or Spirit, or Universe, or Source.

For me, one of the other difficulties that I face in these situations is acceptance of the unknown. That is, not knowing why the challenge has appeared and being comfortable with that. I’m sure this is related to the control issue and our natural tendency to seek answers to situations that challenge us.

But do we always have to understand the “why?”

Dealing with challenges is a little easier as I get older. The phrase “There are things we can control and things we can’t” has become a familiar mantra.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I’m not sure it would be very good if I did. What would be the point of living if we knew all the answers anyways?


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The Daily Head: Veggie Edition

We had lovely weather over the weekend and it got me thinking about our vegetable garden. What delicious goodies do I want to plant this year?

Early spring planting is one of my favorite times for veggies. The ground is warming, the air crisp in the morning, and Mother Nature is waking and welcoming all her children to return.

With that as my source of inspiration, I decided to sculpt two veggie inspired heads:

Sweet Peas! There is nothing like growing sweet peas, picking them off the vine, and eating them right in the garden. (I think the third pea is a little alarmed by the prospect of being eaten right off the vine.)

Another favorite spring veggie:

Red leaf lettuce! Last year we planted red leaf lettuce, Bibb lettuce, and Swiss chard. Ms. Leaf also provided additional inspiration for a new focal disk. I haven’t quite worked out the design for the new disk though I’m getting closer to it. All will be revealed….eventually.

We have another vegetable in our garden that may be the source of another head later this week. This particular veggie is a perennial. We look forward to seeing it burst forth each year. Sweet, tender, and excellent raw or cooked. Any guesses?

My schedule is busy the next couple of days, so I may not have a new head to post until the end of the week. Until then, eat your veggies!

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The Daily Head: Jumpstarting My Creative Mojo

As the result of several disruptions and interruptions in the studio the last few weeks, I realized the other day that I’d lost my creative mojo. Between the health issues, the ice dam damage, cleaning the studio, moving out of the studio, back into the studio, and then out of the studio again, I was beginning to feel like I didn’t want to engage in anything creative. I didn’t want to start a project only to have it sit because I couldn’t get at my tools. I found myself languishing over the computer, puttering on Facebook, sending emails, watching TV.

Most of disruptions and interruptions were out of my control. I had a mini-meltdown during part of the craziness, which may have helped me release some negative energy, but it wasn’t going to change the situation or fix it any quicker. I’d get my head back in a better place, start grooving on some artwork, and then have to stop for one reason or another.

Somewhere in all of this, I also started to feel like my art was “too serious.” That I couldn’t just goof on it, let loose, and have fun with it.

Over the weekend, I was struck with an idea. Boing! I needed some way to jump start my creative mojo, something that wouldn’t take too long to do and that would let me play around at the same time. And preferably it would be something that held my interest, especially if I’m challenging myself to do it everyday.

And so was born THE DAILY HEAD

I like sculpting heads. I can usually sculpt one in an hour or less, especially if I’m not heavy into detail. Sculpting heads allows me to be playful in their creation. And I’m not limited to sculpting. I could draw one, paint one, photograph one. The variety of media available is probably endless. That’s a good thing if I’m going to do this on a daily basis.

This also gets me to be a little more consistent in my blogging.

Now I don’t promise perfection in this challenge. I may miss a day here or there (or several if I’m out of town.) But the idea isn’t to achieve perfection. It is to allow me to play and to remember why I make art.

So with all that in mind, here is THE DAILY HEAD for today:

Polymer clay head

Daily Head 4/4/11

This little guy is about 1.5″ long, made from Super Sculpey mixed with a bit of gold clay, sanded, washed with white acrylic paint, and buffed.